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Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Biden faces serious global challenge as NATO summit begins

By meerna Jul11,2024
Biden faces serious global challenge as NATO summit begins

President Biden’s performance at the NATO summit this week is coming under heavy scrutiny not only from leaders of Western allies but also from Democratic lawmakers as the president seeks to stem the tide of calls for him to drop out of the presidential race and seeks to prove to his party that he is the best person to compete with Donald Trump.

The other 31 NATO leaders arrived in Washington at the same time that Democrats returned to Capitol Hill to intensify the debate over whether the president should remain their nominee. European leaders were closely scrutinizing Biden’s public and private interactions amid anxiety over whether he could defeat Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee who has threatened to destroy NATO.

After his shaky performance in a June 27 debate with Trump, several Democratic lawmakers urged him to end his reelection bid. The president’s emphatic rejection of those suggestions initially seemed to stave off departures, but former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated Wednesday morning that Biden has an important decision to make.

As NATO leaders arrived in Washington for a summit on Tuesday, they exchanged notes after their talks with Biden in what one European official familiar with the interactions said was an attempt to paint as full a portrait as possible of the alliance’s top leader.

Biden’s biggest test will come on Thursday, when he is scheduled to hold a rare news conference that Democrats say will be key to proving he has the energy and mental acuity to campaign against Trump. European leaders will also be closely watching the president’s news conference to try to determine whether his debate performance was a bad night, as Biden claims, or a sign of a larger problem that could make it harder to defeat Trump.

“The summit gives the president an opportunity to showcase his strong global leadership, as opposed to Donald Trump, who would weaken NATO,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “The entire summit gives him an opportunity to showcase his leadership and foreign policy credentials, and the press conference gives him an opportunity to address the issues.”

At Tuesday’s reception with all 32 NATO leaders, Biden’s manner was similar to that of the welcoming speech he gave that evening, acknowledging other leaders without prompting and engaging in fluid, if brief, meetings, a European official said. The president mingled with other leaders alone, without himself or their aides present, the official said.

Another European official said some people in the audience at Biden’s speech watched intently as the president placed the medal around the neck of outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, but the ceremony went off without a hitch. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their assessments of the U.S. president candidly.

Biden was scheduled to attend a working session with other NATO leaders on Wednesday before hosting Britain’s new prime minister, Keir Starmer, at the White House. Later in the evening, he and first lady Jill Biden will host NATO leaders and their spouses for dinner at the White House.

Early in the morning, Biden dropped in on a meeting of leaders of the AFL-CIO, a friendly group that has reaffirmed its support for the president. “I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s chances, not because of myself, but because of what we’re doing together,” Biden told the union leaders.

Biden’s demeanor and mental acuity are likely to come under intense scrutiny at NATO meetings and dinners. At a Group of Seven summit in Italy last month, several European leaders were stunned by how much older the president seemed since they last spoke with him just a year or, in some cases, just a few months earlier, said several officials familiar with their reactions.

Leaders noted that he seemed more tired, more fragile and more likely to lose his train of thought, though he quickly returned to the topic. The overall impression, officials said, was that leaders believed Biden was now capable of fulfilling his duties but wondered how he would be able to serve another four-year term.

Biden has sought to quiet those concerns, starting with his speech Tuesday welcoming NATO leaders to Washington. He spoke passionately about the alliance’s renewed strength — highlighting the addition of two new countries, Finland and Sweden, and an increase in the number of nations spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense — and offered an implicit rebuke to Trump. The former president threatened to destroy the alliance and said he would let Russia do “whatever the hell it wants” to any NATO country that doesn’t spend enough.

Biden did not mention Trump by name but stressed that a bipartisan majority of Americans support the alliance and spoke of the dangers of a world without it.

“It’s good that we’re stronger than ever because this moment in history requires our collective strength,” Biden said. “The American people understand what would happen if there was no NATO, no more war in Europe, American soldiers fighting and dying, dictators spreading chaos.”

By meerna

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